"Sticks and stones can break my bones." This phrase holds true for one of martial arts most popular defensive and offensive weapons - the stick. And if used by a skillful wielder, it can do more than break; it can kill.
Like the knife, the stick is an ancient weapon, dating back some 250,000 years, with numerous other applications like tools, sports equipment, and musical instruments.
This simple but lethal weapon is included in most martial art styles, and it varies in length, thickness, composition and usage. Variations in its size determine its labeling as a staff, rod, spear, cudgel, or pole. Artistic design is often a reflection of methodology.
Today, in most martial arts, the sticks are blunt ended, whereas in the past, during real combat, the tips were sharpened and sometimes poisoned.
Stick-fighting teaches where and how to produce crippling or fatal strikes while blocking the incoming ones. Mastering stick-fighting takes as much dedication and skill as sword fighting requires.
The longer version of the Silambam staff (a stick from the Dravidian martial arts) is thin in diameter and fitted to the martial artist's height, approx. 5' to 6' long. Held by various grips at one end, it allows for diverse blocking and attacking methods. Footsteps play a major role, teaching the correct distance to an opponent. Quick wrist movements increase speed, and moving in conjunction with the stick, escalates power to the strikes.
The dragon pole (a training tool for Wing Chun Kung Fu) is ideally made from a heavy iron wood and approx. 9' in length. Pole training gives strength, correct stance, and teaches proper breathing. Through the pole, body movement, punches, and steps become highly improved. Due to its heavy weight, martial artists are forced to use their whole body in training with the pole rather than just one limb. The effect; dragon pole training generates explosive power for weaponless fighting.
With the arrival of modern weaponry, the stick has become almost obsolete. Martial arts, however, have retained its superiority as a valuable and respected weapon and training tool.